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UMass Lowell’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu team and women’s safety

Erica Taylor
Connector Contributor

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a form of martial arts that promotes the idea that a smaller and weaker person can successfully defend themselves against a bigger and stronger opponent. While it is not as well known as other forms of martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu can be women’s perfect method of defense against potential assaults and other physical threats.

“The thing that people don’t understand is that Jiu-Jitsu means the ‘the gentle art,’” says Dr. Mike Bar-Johnson. Bar-Johnson is a UMass Lowell professor and the faculty advisor of the university’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu team. He says that this means it is a very non-violent art as one can submit the opponent without injuring them.

In particular, Bar-Johnson says this is the best defense against cases like date-rape, or situations with people one may know. Using Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques, a female can easily escape nonviolently from who is trying to hold her down without escalating the situation.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is specifically not about upper body strength, but about leverage and physics coming from the legs and core where women are often stronger than men are. That is why several students say that it is the perfect form of martial arts for women.

“I absolutely believe that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is beneficial for women’s safety,” said Angela Marino, the treasurer of UMass Lowell’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu team. “It teaches you certain techniques for fighting people who are bigger and stronger than you are which is really helpful against men.”

She also said that while it is a better sport and method of defense for women, it still is not easy to learn. Like any form of martial arts, it takes a lot of time and effort to get to a point where one will feel skilled.

Hannah Ewing, another member of UMass Lowell’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team, says that it is hard but she also believes that there is a misconception that it might be harder for women to participate, while in reality it is equally challenging for both men and women.

“It’s different from anything that I have ever done before,” she said.

Ewing believes that learning jiu-jitsu is beneficial for women’s safety, and that she herself felt safer since learning it. She said that, “It boosts women’s mental confidence and mental safety and that’s important and should be emphasized.”

She said that based on what she has seen a lot of women who participate in self-defense and martial arts may have had past experiences where they have felt unsafe. “I think it’s a great way for [those women] to learn how to be safe and it can be sort of a healing process,” she said.

The Brazilian jiu-jitsu team at UMass Lowell is always looking to add more people to their roster, and generally do their sign-ups at the beginning of each semester. Dr. Bar-Johnson is an enthusiastic and friendly advisor and the team of professional coaches love helping people learn the techniques of the art. It is not just good for self-defense, Bar-Johnson says, “It’s very good cardio. When you’re in an active fighting situation you have to give one hundred percent all of the time.” He says that during their trainings, they probably burn around 1000 calories an hour. Send an email to to sign up for UMass Lowell’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu team or for more information.

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